Building an ergonomic, functional and attractive work-from-home office is both an art and a science. You must balance conflicting priorities, from chair selection to screen positioning, while keeping the design fresh.
Because of this perceived complexity, many Australians don’t prioritise home office design. Too hard basket, right?
I’ve worked from home for over 15 years, so I’ve had to transform many boring spare rooms into comfortable, Instagram-worthy, ergonomic office spaces. Let me show you how.
(Related: 10 Best Work From Home Jobs In Australia).
The top of your monitor should be at (or slightly below) your eye level. When you look at the middle of your screen, your eyes should look slightly down.
5 Golden Rules For Best Home Office Ergonomics.
Follow these rules to create an optimal ergonomic workspace in your home.
1. 90 Is The Magic Number.
Your elbows, ankles, hips and knees should be at a 90-degree angle to one another. When they’re not, your muscles will be forced to overcompensate, learning to discomfort, soreness and injuries.
A couple of things to be aware of:
- Your arms should be flat on your desktop, with your wrists in a neutral position. If your wrists flex up or down, adjust your chair height.
- Your back must be straight, with your monitor at arm’s length. Avoid slouching.
2. The 20-20-20 Rule.
The 20-20-20 rule helps prevent stress and eye strain. It recommends you look at something 20 metres away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of screen time.
During these short breaks, your brain and eyes get some respite. Use these breaks as an opportunity to:
- Grab a drink of water.
- Walk around the room.
- Stretch and do a quick exercise (best exercises for home office).
- Close your eyes and meditate.
3. Create Pools Of Light.
What’s the secret to creating a great mood with lighting? Avoiding having a single overhead light source. Use multiple light sources with soft diffusers to create pools of light in your home office.
Shown above: pools of light add a sense of calm and separate areas.
As a rule of thumb, put:
- An attractive feature lamp on your desktop. This creates a central focal point, making the space more inviting.
- Small light behind you. This adds depth to the room, creating interest (as an added bonus, it also makes you look more engaging on Zoom calls (more about this shortly).
4. Don’t Turn The Couch Into A Workstation.
Avoid the temptation to work from your couch or bed. Keep spaces for comfort and relaxation separate.
Couches make you hot (which, in turn, makes you sleepy and more prone to procrastination.
Don’t work from your dining room table, either. Doing this will cause your table to “feel like work” and will make your family time less enjoyable.
5. Create An Attractive Background.
What’s immediately behind your office chair? A messy bookshelf? A plain white wall?
Shown above: styled bookshelves create an attractive background in my current home office. Note the small light for added depth and interest.
An aesthetically pleasing background makes your office feel more inviting.
- More importantly, it sends the right message to people on your Zoom, Teams and Slack calls.
Remember – everything you share with your colleagues shapes your personal brand. Your home office background is not exempt from this.
Essential Equipment For WFH Ergonomics.
You should aim to (over time) invest in revamping all your office equipment to improve your workstation to be as ergonomic as possible.
We’ve ordered our guide in a suggestion of most to least essential, but this will be individual to your circumstances.
1. Adjustable Office Chair.
Ill-fitting office chairs are one of the leading causes of WFH discomfort, which, in turn, can significantly impact your productivity. Here are the most common problems:
- Poor seat depth.
- Unbreathable materials.
- Poor-fitting (or missing) armrests.
When investing in an ergonomic office chair, we have a couple of tips:
- Adjust: Ensure that the chair has sufficient adjustment options (height, backrest tilt, and armrest height are bare minimum). You should be able to sit comfortably, with your feet flat, your spine neutral, and your wrists and forearms parallel to the floor.
- Comfort: If you live in warmer parts of Australia (or don’t have air conditioning in your home), opt for mesh instead of fabric.
(Related: Australia’s Favourite Ergonomic Chairs).
2. Standing Desk (Or Very Adjustable Regular Desk).
I highly recommend standing desks for WFH setups. They counteract sedentary lifestyles, help you stay more cognitively alert, encourage good posture and improve productivity.
Prices range between $500 and $2,000, depending on brand, wood type and strength of construction. This review will help you choose the best desk for your needs.
3. Laptop Stand Or Monitor Mount.
Laptops have inherently poor ergonomics. With screens and keyboards fixed roughly at the same level, they prevent you from placing both into an ergonomic position.
You’re stuck with having to look down at your screen or elevate your wrists into an unnaturally high position.
Laptop stands solve this issue by elevating the screen to your eye level.
Laptop stands also improve air circulation around your laptop. This helps reduce heat buildup, which can improve the performance and lifespan of your laptop.
Monitor arms, meanwhile, give you the ability to:
- Keep your computer screen at eye level and arm’s length if the included stand is inadequate.
- Work with multiple screens without sacrificing ergonomics.
(Related: Guide To Buying The Best Monitor Stand).
4. External Keyboard & Ergonomic Mouse.
Keeping your wrists at awkward angles can lead to long-term conditions such as repetitive strain injury.
There are three main types of ergonomic keyboards to consider for your home office:
- Split keyboard. Divides keys into two separate sections, allowing you to move each half into the most comfortable position.
- Arc keyboard. The curved design keeps your wrists straight and hands shoulder-width apart.
- Contoured keyboard. The most sophisticated approach to keyboard design, the contoured keyboard provides a wrist rest while using a wavy pattern to reduce forearm pronation and reduce ulnar deviation.
The humble mouse is also a frequent source of wrist pain. Consider ergonomic alternatives such as vertical and adjustable mice instead:
- Vertical mouse. Allows your right thumb to point toward the ceiling with your hand in a handshake position. The benefit? This position supports the wrist and reduces the physical consequences of long-term strain or exacerbated arthritis.
- Adjustable mouse. Allows you to change the angle of your mouse by lifting it higher or lower in the standard mouse position.